Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The problems with phone call updates ...

Today someone relayed a desire to set up weekly PHONE CALLS to review the status of a problem project. What I don't like about phone call updates:

1. There's no documentation about the status, absent sending an email AFTER the call saying "this is to confirm the current status of the project discussed on the call dated (insert date)" along with details of what was agreed to. There are occasions people want to do a phone call on purpose: to avoid being documented. A problem later or any misunderstanding from the call turns into a "he said, she said" if not documented. It is, however, a plus to have an OPTION to talk separately for any clarification when something genuinely cannot be understood otherwise.

2. Can a "team" of people really commit to the same day and time weekly? My experience with any regularly scheduled phone meeting is "some" show up and most have conflicts - so the "team" on the call ends up being something smaller than the team. With all the document management options now - which are especially useful for status updates - there should be no need for weekly phone calls for status reports. If any status is available in less than a week, isn't it better to report when known versus a future scheduled time?

3. The pleasantries that end up taking so much time. This week, two vendors I never met started the phone conversation asking about how my holidays were. "Nice" and "good" resulted in follow up questions, "did you do anything special?" etc. Those holiday quizzes are, however, a break from always being asked about the weather at the start of a call (my ultimate pet peeve for conference calls.) Is it more of a courtesy to establish a bonding ritual on topics of no consequence or better to just cut to the chase and discuss the issues that are the real purpose of the call?

4. Personal preference for communications. People have definite personal preferences for how they want communications - and often those who prefer one type (phone calls versus email, for example) can be annoyed by another type. For example, if you get a phone call, but prefer to answer by email (absent the person giving you email as a way to respond in the voice mail). Or if you send an email, and the person prefers to responds with a phone call. Where should the courtesy be if each prefers a separate method?

Regularly scheduled updates are important. How you manage and participate in them is important too.

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